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Fighting Urban Poverty: A New Deal

Zuo Huanchen, professor of anatomy at the Medical College of Shanghai Fudan University and member of the China Peasants and Workers Democratic Party, recently talked about her views on China's fight against urban poverty. Zuo is attending the Second Session of the 10th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), where she submitted a proposal for dealing with this problem.

Zuo said that with the deepening of the market economy, China's social economy has made great headway and urbanization continues to speed ahead. At the same time, however, the problem of urban poverty is inevitable, with the impoverished population in cities trending upward overall.

This rise in the number of poor is caused by a number of factors, stated Zuo, but the existence of poverty creates a trap for urban development. It has a severe impact on social equality, retards the social development process and tarnishes achievements.

Urban poverty can lead to a "social melt-down." It increases the risk of social turmoil and probably contributes to the development of antisocial forces, said Zuo.

Zuo held that China's urban poverty relief system and policies require further improvement in several areas. These include assessment technology and systems; comprehensive relief programs; and fair and effective methods of implementation.

New circumstances and a new level of development mean that changes are needed in social relief policies. Zuo's proposal for dealing with urban poverty suggests some of these.

Zuo recommends establishing a comprehensive urban social relief system that guarantees a minimum standard of living, medical care and education. An efficient system, she said, will help to prevent deaths from hunger, disease, exposure and despondency, while promoting social equality.

A social relief system related to employment should be created, and all levels of government should have full understanding of the connection between employment and social relief. A work relief program would enhance community service organizations, providing the manpower to undertake such jobs as caring for the elderly. Additionally, incentives could be offered to enterprises that employ the needy.

(China.org.cn by Li Jingrong, March 10, 2004)

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